Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Michigan Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Kalamazoo was incorporated as a village in 1843 and as a city in 1884.

The first water works was built in 1851 using waste water from the reservoir of the Michigan Central Railroad, which was piped to a reservoir by the village. 


Kalamazoo Gazette, April 9, 1852, Page 4.

This initial system was expanded over time, but was not adequate to local needs.  Local support for an expanded water works led to a contract with the Holly Manufacturing Company for pumping machinery for new water works that included two rotary pumps driven by a steam engine.   This system was placed in service on October 25, 1869 and accepted in early November.   The rotary pumps prove to be unsuitable for the task and a pair of Holly piston gang pumps with a capacity of 1 MGD were added in 1873.  A 2 MGD Worthington pumping engine was added in 1877. 

Water is provided by the City of Kalamazoo.


References and Timeline
1869 "Trial of New Water Works," Detroit Free Press, November 8, 1869, Page 4,
Kalamazoo, Nov. 6 - The water works which were contracted for by S.L. Brignall, of Chicago, and furnished by the Holly Manufacturing Company at Lockport, N.Y., were tested this afternoon and accepted by the committee.

1871 Kalamazoo Gazette, May 19, 1871, Page 3.
A new Holly pump is being put in at the Water Works.

1871 Kalamazoo Gazette, June 16, 1871, Page 3.
The Board of Supervisors, now in session, have decided to put the Holly Water Works in jail.

1872 "Report of the Committee on Fire and Water," Kalamazoo Gazette, March 26, 1872, Page 2.

1873 Kalamazoo Gazette, March 14, 1873, Page 3.
The committee appointed to investigate the Holly works succeeded in getting good streams all over town, but the pressure was variable and unsteady and the committee have decided to recommend the Vincennis pump and the removal of the Holly pump, now used at the works.  [Probably means Vergennes pump.]

1873 Kalamazoo Gazette, April 11, 1873, Page 3.
We are informed that the Holly Company, months ago, proposed to put in piston pumps for the purpose of keeping up the regular water supply, for $1,500, and the "od boiler:" giving the village six months'time in which to test their efficiency.  The Holly company have never recommended their rotary pumps for any but fire purposes.

1874 "Report of the Committee on Fire and Water," Kalamazoo Gazette, April 24, 1874, Page 3.
New Holly piston pump purchased for $2,000, successfully tested on October 4, 1873.

1880 "Water-Works, from History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan

1881 Concise History of the Fire and Water Department of the Village of Kalamazoo, Mich., from its incorporation in 1843 to 1881.  | Also here |
Page 6:  1851 — April 26. The Michigan Central Railroad Co., having established a tank at their depot, which was supplied with a continuous stream of water through wooden pipes, had an overflow of waste water, which the company offered to the village authorities free of cost for the purpose of extinguishing fires. Whereupon, Messrs. Wm. R. Watson and Alex. Buell were appointed a committee to confer with the railroad company in reference to the privilege tendered, of using such surplus water.
Page 14:  1866 — Jan’y 15. E. S. Chesbrough, civil engineer of Chicago, made careful surveys and estimates of a pure water supply from Eames’ power, Alcott springs, and Loring lake. The engineer’s report is entered at large upon the village journal under date of January 15, 1866. Of the three sources examined, the engineer recommended “Alcott spring” as the more feasible, and less expensive than either of the others.
’67 — Nov. 9. Village ordinance passed authorizing the President and Trustees to contract for the establishment of hydraulic works, either by a private company or at the public expense, for supplying Kalamazoo village with water, and to purchase water pipes, engines, and all the necessary outfit; also, to regulate charges and distribution of water to citizens of the village.
Pages 16-17:  '69—May 3. Messrs. Horace Phelps, C. M. Hobbs and Alex. Buell, committee on Fire and Water, made a report in reference to water supply for the village, and recommended the "Holly system" as the most feasible, economical and efficient; that a contract be entered into with the Holly Manufacturing Company, of Lockport, N. Y., for all the machinery and fixtures. That the property known as Corporation Hall be sold and the proceeds devoted to the objects as above set forth.
The report of the committee as above was adopted, and the President and Trustees proceeded to execute a contract with the agent of the Holly Manufacturing Company.
The following abstract of contract with the Holly Manufacturing Company is given: The company agreed to furnish— two Holly patent eliptical rotary pumps, one boiler, one double cylinder one-fourth crank piston engine, one hydrostatic pressure gauge and regulator, one blower, one heater, valves, connections, gearing and shafting, and all other machinery necessary to complete the works.
They guaranteed a power sufficient to throw three one inch streams simultaneously to the height of eighty feet. Upon the acceptance of the machinery above described the village authorities were to pay ten thousand dollars on the 10th of September, 1869, at which time the works were to be in readiness for public test.
The company were to furnish sixteen double hydrants at 150 each, and sixteen single hydrants at $40 each. They also stipulated that the boiler should stand a pressure of twenty-five pounds to the square inch, and that steam from cold water should be raised in ten minutes.
'69—May 10. A special election was held to provide, by the issuing of bonds of the village, to secure a supply of water for fire protection, for raising the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars in equal payments annually of five thousand dollars.

1881 Kalamazoo, Engineering News, 8:312 (August 6, 1881)

1883 "The Kalamazoo (Mich.) Water-Works," from Engineering News 10:463 (September 19, 1883)

1884 Annual Report of the Committee on Fire and Water, for the year ending April 14, 1884.

1888 "Kalamazoo," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "Kalamazoo," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 Reports on the New Gaskill Pumping Engine, Kalamazoo, Mich, by Mortimer Elwyn Cooley

1891 "Kalamazoo," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1897 "Kalamazoo," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1906 "Fire and Water Works," from Compendium of history and biography of Kalamazoo County, Mich., edited by David Fisher and Frank Little | Also here |

1957 "Kalamazoo, Mich.," by Paul Sabo, in charge of drilling for the City of Kalamazoo Water Utility, Journal of the American Water Works Association 49(7):905-909 (July, 1957)




© 2018 Morris A. Pierce